Demon Slayer (Anime)

Title: Demon Slayer
Episodes: 1-26

Tanjiro lost his family to a sudden demon attack—all but his sister, who was infected to become a demon herself. Determined to get revenge, and protect his sister, Tanjiro trains hard to become a demon slayer. But the road to mastery is long, and the demons are powerful . . .

It’s so nice to have a protagonist like Tanjiro, whose main personality trait can probably be summed up in “big brother.” He’s kindhearted enough to care for everyone around him, and he never loses sight of the fact that the demons he’s killing were at one time victims themselves to the same curse that infected his sister. But underneath that kindness is a steel determination to save the only family he has left, and he won’t back down from anything that tries to separate him from his sister.

If I have one complaint, it’s that Nezuko, his sister, has a very small role. She’s mostly either asleep or acting cute in a way that makes her feel more like a pet than a person. Hopefully future seasons will flesh her out more.

Inosuke and Zenitsu are two other novices that eventually join Tanjiro on his missions. Although both of them have annoying traits, they also both quickly show deeper backstories, and both of them contribute a lot to the more humorous moments. (Although Zenitsu is at times extremely annoying, as his main schtick is being a wailing¬† coward whenever he’s awake.)

Ufotable did a wonderful job with the visuals. The fight scenes are sharp, and the special abilities are done in traditional Japanese art style, which makes them look surreal and beautiful. It’s also a real treat to see Tanjiro go from a countryside that looks like a historical drama to the electric lights and trains of the big city. The modern citygoers have no room for “demon slayers”, not even realizing that the demons are walking among them.

Overall this is one of the standouts on nearly every level. The story is compelling, the art is fantastic, and I can’t wait to see where this is going next. (A movie is already announced for the next arc.) I rate this show Highly Recommended.

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Dr. Stone (Anime)

Title: Dr. Stone
Episodes: 1-13

Senku was a high school student with a lifelong love of science and a single goal: to go to the moon. Unfortunately, a civilization-ending disaster strikes first, turning everyone in the world to stone. Three thousand years later, Senku breaks free. And from a second stone age, he’s working on restoring all the civilization—and science—he knows and loves.

This is an odd show with some crazy character designs in places, but it’s also a huge amount of fun. Senku is a genius, but he’s the kind of genius who is just so passionate about his favorite subject he wants everyone else to love it too. And because he’s been doing experiments from a young age, it feels natural for him to have the know-how to recreate some of the many things that were lost.

On a personal level, he’s a bit snarky, likes to tease his friends, and holds intense loyalty to them. So he mostly avoids the more annoying sides of being a genius.

The situation with other characters is a little weirder. The beginning of the show sets up a certain group of friends and enemies, but the author seems to have given up on that plotline rather early in favor of moving Senku to a village populated by people he hasn’t known in his pre-statue life.

Overall, even if the more typical elements (a tournament arc, really?) don’t really work for me, the science is always fun, and it’s a bit of a game guessing what Senku will try to create next. I rate this show Recommended.

To the abandoned sacred beasts (Anime)

Title: To the abandoned sacred beasts

Episodes: 1-12

Hank was once the captain of the Incarnates, an experimental squad of humans who can transform into mythological beasts. But once the war ended, the Incarnates find themselves unable to return to normal society. Their bodies have increasingly succumbed to their transformations to the point where many of them can’t revert to human anymore, and worse than that, many of them also lose their minds. So Hank determines to fulfill the last wish of their creator, Elaine, and hunt down all the Incarnates before madness consumes them all.

This was something I wanted to like more than I did. Shapeshifting people with alternate mythological forms? I am SO down for that. But as the title might suggest, this is mostly a series of vignettes that are uniformly tragedies, with a larger plot involving Hank’s hunt for one particular Incarnate that just kind of sucks.

The worst of it for me is that there’s no evidence Schaal is wrong. Schaal is the daughter of one of the Incarnates, who pursues Hank relentlessly once he kills her father. She thinks there’s no need to kill the Incarnates, even if they can’t transform back, and that they can integrate back into life. I think there’s actually strong evidence in the show that she’s correct—Siren, in particular, shows no signs of being unduly influenced by her more bestial form. Although some Incarnates have certainly lost the battle to madness, it seems horribly preemptive to call this inevitable and just slaughter them all whether they are insane or not.

But instead of looking for a way to redeem the Incarnates, both Hank and Schaal have given up on them and go around killing them.

The animation isn’t usually great, but it’s serviceable. I do appreciate that the Incarnates are hand-drawn and not CG. The overall story doesn’t exactly wrap up, but they tried to give it some sense of closure, as Hank and Schaal have both decided what they are going to do with their lives from here out, even though they haven’t reached their goals.

Overall this is an odd little show. It had plenty of moments of pathos, even if Cain was exaggerated evil and basically invincible (daylight doesn’t seem to bother him, and you can’t physically hit him, so I do wonder how Hank intends to kill him). And despite knowing that every little mini-story was going to have a bad ending, it was fun seeing the various Incarnate forms and personalities. I rate this show Neutral.

The Saga of Tanya the Evil (Movie)

Title: The Saga of Tanya the Evil

Format: Movie

Tanya had hoped to get away from war, but as usual she’s been dragged to the front lines. This time, Russia is the primary enemy—but an international unit that gets entangled in the fray suggests the United States may not be far behind. With no other options, Tanya puts her all into staying alive . . .

This feels like an extended next episode of the series. Picking up right where the series left off, it showcases Mary Sue and her new placement in an international unit visiting Moscow to help foster friendly relations in their mutual fight against the Empire. Mary Sue isn’t paying attention to anything other than her own goals for revenge.

It’s an interesting contrast to Tanya, who strives for ultimate professionalism in what she does (though sometimes her emotions do slip through). This war, like the wars before it, creates a perfect storm to draw Tanya in. Between her superior’s shortsightedness, unexpected enemy action, and some manipulation by Being X (though he doesn’t have a direct role like in the series), Tanya is unable to grasp the peaceful life she so desires.

Visually this was stunning. The cloudscapes were gorgeous, and there were several amazing arial dogfights. The flying battles are reason enough for me to buy this. A few shortcuts are evident in some of the more intense fight scenes, but given the sheer dynamic motion of the rest of it I’m more than willing to overlook it.

Overall, this is best watched after seeing the regular anime, but there is enough context for a new viewer to jump right in. The only real downside is that the relatively open nature of the end implies there needs to be another season to continue from where this one leaves off. I rate this movie Recommended (if you enjoyed the series, Highly Recommended).

Web Novel Short Reviews

I haven’t been completely inactive, but most of my reading has been web novels that either don’t have an ending yet, or are things I dropped after a few hundred chapters and haven’t gotten around to finishing.

So I’d like to briefly highlight some of the standouts, as an eventual reminder to myself.

To Be A Power in the Shadows (official title: The Eminence in Shadow) – Sid has always admired the mysterious figures that rule from the shadows and fight evil, and has made it his life goal to be one of them. This is amazingly funny. Sid flat out admits in the first chapter he’s willfully thrown away sanity in pursuit of his dreams (I do hope this chapter retains all its best quotes in the official release in November). So what’s left is a boy having the time of his life playing at his dream, while not realizing that everything he thinks is pretend is actually real. Which drives the evil organization nuts because they can’t understand how their information is leaking, when from Sid’s perspective he’s just making up a nice backstory to explain why he’s doing what he does.

My Death Flags Show No Sign of Ending – A young man is pulled into the character of one of the villains of his favorite games. Starting as 10-year-old Harold Stokes, he’s trying his best to avoid all the things in the game that led to his death. This one is funny too, although it took a few chapters for me to get into it. Harold has an interesting quirk where the original body’s personality seems to not be completely gone, which results in him being completely incapable of saying anything nice. I love the grumpy thought he has calling his mouth cursed equipment. But since he’s not sure how much other people ought to know, and because no one will believe him if he tries to explain anything, he keeps most things to himself and the misunderstandings keep piling up. Unfortunately, the extremely slow release of recent chapters suggests the original author has either dropped this or is close to dropping it, which is especially aggravating because the story is so close to the final battle.

The Amber Sword – A gamer is pulled into his favorite games as one of the NPC characters seconds before his death. After scrambling to survive, he works to save the country he loves, which fell in the game to the undead invasion that is just now beginning. This is a pretty solid fantasy, with a surprise appearance of a magic system based on Magic the Gathering somewhat late into the plot. That said, most of the magic and abilities are outside that system, so the introduction of cards doesn’t unbalance things too badly, and it’s an amusing look at what a card based magic system could look like in practice.¬† The only downside is that the translator got busy with real life stuff quite a ways in and seems to have dropped it, and there’s no indication if he or anyone else might pick it up again.

The S-Classes That I Raised – After an unfortunate incident where his brother sacrificed his life for him, the main character manages to return five years in the past. Determined to fix his relationship with his brother, avoid all the stupid things he did, and generally take it easy, he’s a bit derailed when his caretaker talent starts setting him up to play a much bigger role finding and strengthening the world’s strongest. This one is interesting because the main character himself is generally incapable, though not usually incompetent, and now that he’s had such a bad experience he’s ready to do his life over “correctly.” It is hilarious watching him encourage others when he really wants to scream because his ability can only be triggered by the words “I love you.” So he has to keep forcing conversations around to the point where he can say those words and have them mean something to the receiver. But it’s also surprisingly heartwarming because even if he’s not entirely the nice guy others think he is, he does try hard to make their lives better. Also it features a cute unicorn-cat-lion monster that mostly acts like a cat unless it gets annoyed, when it can swat couches into splinters. This one is ongoing and updates on Fridays.

My Hero Academia: Two Heroes (Movie)

Title: My Hero Academia: Two Heroes
Format: Movie

When All Might receives an invitation from an old friend to attend I-Island’s exhibition, he invites Izuku Midoriya along with him. Izuku is thrilled to meet some of the people so important to his mentor, like David Shields, a genius inventor, and his daughter Melissa. But a fun outing on the island is interrupted by terrorists, and Izuku must put into practice all the heroism he’s been learning . . .

This was a fun movie. My favorite parts were seeing young All Might as he was before he truly became famous, and how that friendship with David has influenced and changed the both of them.

Because it’s a movie more focused on filling in some of the background details for All Might, it works fairly well as a standalone or as a way to introduce someone to the series. There’s a somewhat large chunk of flashback from the first few episodes of the anime explaining how Izuku got his powers from All Might, so people new to the franchise won’t be totally lost (although the various unnecessary cameos that exist solely to give the rest of the cast very minor roles are pretty much just for fans).

The terrorist takeover plot wasn’t bad but it was more interesting seeing the differing views David and All Might have about All Might’s current situation. All Might has basically been preparing to retire—to pass things along to the next generation. David isn’t ready to let his best friend and light of the world step down. There’s a lot to sympathize with on both sides, and neither of them really tells everything to the other, so they end up in conflict despite not meaning to go that far.

On the student side, the plot mostly focuses on Izuku (Deku), Orihime, Todoriki, Bakugou, Iida, and other fan favorites.

Overall, although missing this isn’t going to affect too much for fans of the regular series, I would still recommend it, as it’s one of the few places we get any kind of detail about All Might’s past, and it’s a pretty good movie on its own. I rate this movie Recommended.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #6 (Light Novel)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #6

Author: Fuse

Rimuru became a demon lord without thinking much about the consequences—but those consequences are now demanding his attention. The other nations that surround the forest of Jura have questions about him and the army he wiped out. More importantly, the other demon lords have yet to weigh in on what they feel about a newcomer. If Rimuru handles this badly he could make enemies of some of the most powerful beings in the world . . .

This is the first novel in the series that felt like it was really dragging. The various treaties and discussions Rimuru does are important to the overall plot, but rather dry, and might have been better as a shorter summary (if this ever gets animated I would expect the first two chapters, for instance, to be significantly cut down).

Thankfully there are several different battles that take place, both with Rimuru and with his companions. Of special note, Shuna gets her own fight this time, and it’s one of the more detailed fights in the book.

It’s also interesting in that it’s the first look at many of the other demon lords. Rimuru’s poor opinion of Ramiris aside, pretty much everyone but Clayman gives him pause. I liked seeing how they were all masking their strength in some fashion, which leaves even Raphael in the dark about how to handle them.

And Veldora is always SO much fun. Rimuru is going nuts trying to handle the now-manga-obsessed dragon, but he’s probably the only one who can, as Veldora is one of the worst calamity-class monsters.

Overall, although this is a necessary link in the story, it’s also one of the weakest ones. With an unidentified mastermind, a bevy of new demon lords, and hints about the Empire, the future is sure to be more interesting. I rate this book Neutral.